The selection of the Arkansas Teacher of the Year is supposed to be a surprise, but Randi House, a kindergarten teacher at Conway’s Theodore Jones Elementary School, was already wiping away tears before her name was called.
House earlier had been named one of four semifinalists, so she knew she was in the running for the award. On Sept. 29, she was standing against the wall during a “school assembly” as the children sat on the floor listening to a reading. That’s when she saw Education Commissioner Johnny Key, other officials, her family, and news reporters file into the room.
House received a $14,000 check from the Walton Family Foundation. In February, she’ll train with other Teachers of the Year in California. And then July 1, she’ll leave the classroom for a year and travel the state promoting the profession, visiting with other teachers and learning new techniques. She’ll also be a nonvoting member of the Arkansas State Board of Education.
A shortage of teachers and future teachers
Hopefully she’ll be able to help reverse a trend that has policymakers concerned – a teacher shortage accompanied by a falling number of students studying to be teachers in Arkansas. Over a five-year period, enrollees in first-time teacher licensure programs dropped by more than half. In 2011-12, 7,758 candidates were enrolled in such programs. In 2015-16, it was 3,737.
The natives were restless. Someone’s head had to be chopped off. And Jeff Long’s was the nearest one.
Long, as you no doubt already know, was fired as University of Arkansas Athletic Director Wednesday. Thanks to his contract, he’ll be paid up to $4.625 million by the Razorback Foundation. The football coach, Bret Bielema, would be owed almost $5.9 million – or maybe more – if he were fired, which might happen by the time you read this.
Who wants higher taxes? In at least 13 Arkansas communities, the answer Sept. 19 was, “We’ll pay them, for our local schools.”
That’s how many school districts voted to increase property taxes during the annual school elections. Voters chose to erase all or much of the tax cuts provided by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Legislature during the past two legislative sessions. Meanwhile, voters in eight districts said no to millage increases.
The increases occurred in communities across the state, from Berryville in the state’s northwest corner to Dumas in southeastern Arkansas. The largest increase was 8.4 mills at the Cutter Morning Star district around Hot Springs for a new high school and arena. Fifty-nine percent of voters approved raising their taxes by $168 a year on a $100,000 home. In DeQueen, 61 percent said yes to a 4.9-mill increase to replace the crowded high school. The 50-year-old building was designed for 60-80 students per grade; they’ve since grown to about 200. The district, which is 63 percent Hispanic, had the state’s lowest millage rate before the vote. Continue reading Raise taxes? Yes, say some voters – for schools→